Senior Environment Artist
What does an average day at work look like for you?
If I’m lucky, a workday starts with a ride to work with my partner on his FZ1 motorbike - that always wakes me up and sets me up nicely for the day!
In work, I’m normally found head deep in cockpit creation so I’ll have my concept images open, (we have an amazing concept team) have my music or audio book on and I’m off into my own world creating the geometry, textures, doing the lighting and setting up multiple UV sets for the Ambient Occlusion and Detail Mask maps that we use in the pipeline.
Traditionally, the modelling for E:D has been done in 3Ds Max but a few of us have recently been testing the water with using Maya. I like a challenge and so decided to jump both feet in and create my most recent cockpit in Maya 2016 from scratch. I was (very) happy to find that the change over wasn’t as bad as we were anticipating and thanks to our fantastic art, rigging, animation and tools teams, the problems I came across were often squished within minutes. (The phrases ‘We’ve got a tool for that’ or ‘It’s the Maya way’ are now forever imprinted in my mind!)
What aspect of the game have you worked on that you are most proud of?
The first cockpit that I made was for the Anaconda (in at the deep end again – this one wasn’t my choice!) and with that ship interior, we established the workflow of using tileable maps to create high resolution textures which we then rolled out across the entire fleet.
The technique is useful in many ways as it enables us to share textures across the ship line of each manufacturer which creates both depth and history to the ship makers, as well as speeding up the dev process in line with our need to create quality assets as quickly as possible.
It was a very nerve wracking time for me when that ship went out to the public but the reactions that I saw online were great and it really did make me feel proud, and relieved... but mostly proud! Since then, I’ve strived to create more and more detailed and impressive cockpits, my favourite of which is amongst the Imperial fleet.
We want the connection between the player and their ship to be as close as possible. Some of the details that we place in the cockpits are only visible at glancing angles or in certain light conditions to add depth and interest after the initial purchase. We try our best to describe the surfaces you are looking at as accurately as possible to build on that connection and quite often, there is a lot going on behind the cockpit chair/s that you can’t currently see without the functionality of VR.
I’m very lucky that I can often be left to make a cockpit over the course of a few weeks and so long as I meet the deadline, everyone’s happy but it’s also nice to have a change of scenery and work with others to build a bigger part of the picture from time to time. Simon B, one of our most Senior Technical Artists has done an outstanding job on orchestrating all of the stations to date and so it was great to work with him and others on something as large as the CQC arenas where I helped to unify the art style, work out some of the technicalities there, liaise closely with the design team and have a go at creating a couple of my own mega structures to boot. (A far cry from the tiny details of cockpits as I’m sure you can imagine!)
What's your favourite thing about Elite Dangerous?
All of it!
I backed the game during the kickstarter campaign because I believed in it and really wanted the game to come to fruition. I love the vibe in this studio, the constant conversations about spaceships, the Universe, all the laughs, the dilemmas, the creative resolutions. It’s all fantastic to be part of and very meaningful to me in terms of something I’m going to look back on in years to come and be proud to have been a part of.
Additionally, I get very excited to see the feedback from players - the screenshots, timelapse vids, situation captures and scenario play throughs that you guys and ladies put together as you make discoveries through the galaxies are awesome and often staggeringly beautiful! We have an internal news feed and so get to see some of the highlights of what’s going on in the community as there’s just not enough hours in the day to keep up with it all. My favourite recent community team discovery has come to light from Ed’s time spent with them... the Fuel Rats! Such a fantastic way to use the game and help out fellow CMDRs, I love it!!
What was the biggest challenge you came up against during game development?
In the art team, we have big challenges that we deal with literally all the time. As the game progresses, more and more decisions have to be made that have knock on effects for maaaany other elements of the game (art and otherwise). We can foresee some of these challenges and put processes in place at the time but some things happen down the line that mean we have to stop, (that’s a lie, we never stop,) re-evaluate the current situation and choose the best path to take going forward. These challenges are essential and a huge amount of work goes into making sure that the player never even notices that changes have taken place.
What have you learned from working on Elite Dangerous?
•There is no such thing as downtime on a project as ambitious as E:D!
•The Universe is an incredibly large place to fill with interesting things.
•That science based space exploration is achievable within our lifetime... with friends and family along for the ride... in a huge variety of spaceships... with massive kickass weapons and while we’re at it... let’s go down to the surface... do some more cool stuff and take some pictures while we’re there – it’s madness!
Federation, Empire, or Alliance? And why?
I’m not loyal to any one faction, I like to be spontaneous and flit and change to whichever one suits me at the time. However, I’ll admit that I don’t currently have much time to play. – I really should reprioritise my time... Wedding plans can wait, right?!
Tell the community a fun fact about yourself.
I’ve pulled 7G’s in a stunt plane with one of the UK’s top Aerobatic Instructors. (The plane was a two-seater Extra – complete with a mean teeth paint job and everything!!) Mark taught me to do barrel rolls, loops, stalls, spins and to use the clouds as my playground... What a buzz!
If you could ask the community one question, what would it be?
What are your favourite details in E:D? This could be anything – a section of audio from a ship’s engine, the satisfaction of a certain weapon loadout, the look of a certain class of stars, an animation which is just soooo satisfying, I dunno, some COCKPIT DETAILS?!... you know, anything at all. ;D